Thanksgiving A Holiday For All

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“I believe if we can establish gratitude as one of the building blocks of our lives, then gratitude can lead us toward the manner of life that would bring a smile to the very countenance of God….Furthermore, when we are grateful, we are more likely to be kind to others. The kindness we show to others not only enriches their lives, but ours as well.”   Alvin Sugarman, rabbi emeritus of The Temple in Atlanta and AJC guest columnist

While it seems odd to be posting on this major holiday, it also feels like the most natural thing to do.  Expressing and sharing my heart and what is on my mind.  We woke up to sleet and are deep in the woods in North Georgia, where we traditionally like to be on Thanksgiving and we have a record low sized group for our feast…seven will be around the table.  My husband’s parents, whom we hoped would be with us were not able to join us and Walker and his bride, Jessica are spending the day with her family in Kennesaw. We plan to see the newlyweds on Saturday-Monday. We are thrilled to be sharing the day and the cooking with our other newly weds and Leah’s new in-law family!  The remainder of our usual enormous gathering are with new grandchildren, extended family and friends.  We’ve been receiving multiple texts with pictures of loved ones with babies as they celebrate life together. What a wonderful annual holiday Thanksgiving is!

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A gift from a dear friend, Betsy at the time of my Mama’s passing in 2006.

For me and for many, I believe, it is a time of remembering Thanksgivings in our past.  My Mama LOVED this day and she continually had a full house, forever welcoming more and more to the dinner table.  She  made the most moist dressing and prided in getting as many  grandchildren’s hands as possible into the bowl of the mixing of the ingredients for the most delectable dressing ever. And the stories that were told…sharing the day with my Daddy and his clarinet,  our grandfather, Gus, and others who have gone on ahead of us.  There was always laughter and smiles when Gus was around! One of our traditions is to pass out 3 kernels of corn to each one present and go around the circle of loved ones saying 3 things we are thankful for.  This simple act is a cherished memory in itself.  I hope this post will trigger sweet memories of days gone by for you.

Thanksgiving is also a time for making new memories and beginning  fresh, original traditions with newlyweds, as well as little ones who have come in to change a young family’s life forever.

As we enjoy Thanksgiving today, there is likely not a person around who has not reflected on the tumultuous circumstances that originated in Ferguson, MO, and I am no exception.  Although more sad than anything, I cannot express my opinion one way or the other, except to say that KINDNESS and RESPECT by all humans towards each other would make a tremendous difference in our world.  In today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution, Rabbi Sugarman penned an article in a guest column (p. A16) entitled ‘Simply Learn to be Kind’. In his closing, he challenges each one of us with the following:

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In A Southern Kitchen E-Cookbook came in handy for my pumpkin pie! This new recipe calls for a ginger snap crust. YUM!
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Donny’s fried turkey is ready to carve!

“During the Thanksgiving season, and every day, may we give thanks and show compassion and kindness to others.  In doing so, your presence will be a blessing to all you touch and to our Creator.”

Hope Amidst the Fragility of Life Wisdom From Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Leah and Walker on the Wheaton College, IL campus , June 2010.

“Do something wonderful, people may imitate it.” Albert Schweitzer, German, theologian, organist, philosopher, physician, and medical missionary to Africa (1875-1964)

It’s a rainy day in Georgia as the community of Ferguson, Missouri waits. Nearly 7,000 miles away, tensions mount, MO Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency, and the FBI has been called in. While I have no worries about them being nearby, our son and his new wife live in St. Louis, only 30 minutes where all of this turmoil is taking place.  The Nation is waiting to hear whether or not Police Officer, Darren Wilson will be indicted for the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 19, 2014.  Thankfully, Michael Brown, Sr. and his wife are strongly discouraging violence and even have folks giving out free turkeys to residents of Ferguson as a gesture of kindness. I am thankful these grieving parents are aiming to set the right example for those in their path. In addition, Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President states that the organization has always stood for non-violence.

I hope and pray that this community can come to a peaceful resolution soon.

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others.  It is the only thing.” Albert Schweitzer

I am reminded once again that we only get one chance at this life…this is no dress rehearsal and I want to continue to rise up and encourage others to do the same as we go forward in our daily journey. HOW, I ask, can you and I make a difference in the life of someone today? How can our example have a positive impact in the life of another?

One of my Daddy’s mentors and heroes in life was physician, Albert Schweitzer. This green plaque hung in Daddy’s home until he passed on.  Dr. Schweitzer was known for emphasizing reverence for life, as he sought to encourage respect for how precious and unique each life is. Winner of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for this philosophy , Dr. Schweitzer is most famous for his 1913 founding and sustaining the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Gabon, West Central Africa. His legacy lives on today through the service of and to others in this hospital.

“The purpose of human life is to serve, to show compassion, and the will to help others.” Albert Schweitzer

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“I have always held firmly to the thought that each one of us can do a little to bring some portion of misery to an end.” Albert Schweitzer

“The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” Albert Schweitzer

How does Ferguson, MO connect with the work and life of Dr. Albert Schweitzer  decades ago, one may ask?

We are all, each one, given the sacred gift of life, and I think film actress, Eleanor Powell (1943-1959) says it well:

“What we are is God’s gift to us and

what we become is

our gift to God.”

Hungry and Cold Each One Reach One

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“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa, Roman Catholic Religious Sister 

(1910-1997)

I honestly do not know what it would be like for one of my children or me to be hungry, thirsty, cold, and without a home. I can only imagine this as I did in the middle of the night last night.  My sock-less feet felt cold and I pulled the covers tighter and closer to my chin as I reflected on the truth of homeless people in our community.  I woke up thinking about these same, though nameless, people and knew I had to do something TODAY to make a difference in their life journey.  We are called to serve others, especially those in need.

“Intense love does not measure, it just gives.” Mother Teresa

Fortunately, we have a very organized shelter close to us that gives aid not only to homeless citizens, but also to those who simply need a meal or a hand up.  Founded in 1971 by the Rev. Wayne Williams, MUST Ministries has been helping those in need in the Marietta, Smyrna,Canton, and Cherokee areas for over 40 years.  The Elizabeth Inn sleeps 40 men and 24 women and children.  The Loaves & Fishes Community Kitchen serves a free noon meal to current residents, as well as anyone else who comes by hungry. In addition, those in need, can pick up a supply of groceries four times a year. When I checked their website, I found a list of the particular things that would come in handy as MUST continues to serve those in need who live and work in our community.

Here is the list that I found:

Outreach Needs:

General Clothing/Shoes
Professional Clothing
Rain Ponchos
New Underclothes & Socks
Tarps and Tents
Flashlights and Batteries
Bath and Hand Towels
Blankets
Luggage
Jar/Pillar/Taper Candles (new or used)
Diapers sizes 4,5,& 6

Food Needs:

(All non-perishable items)
Canned Meats
Peanut Butter
Jelly
Dried Pasta
Boxed Dinners
Spaghetti Sauce
Cereal/Breakfast Items
Juice
Powdered Milk
Canned Fruit
Dry Beans
Oatmeal/Grits
Macaroni & Cheese
Flavored Rice
Bread/Muffin Mix
Sugar

When I headed out to take care of some early Thanksgiving food shopping, I took this list with me and picked up things to deliver to MUST.  The MUST Donation Site near me is located at 55 Chastain Road NW, Suite 110, Kennesaw and will receive your donations Tuesdays-Saturdays, 9 AM-5 PM.  They welcome your gently used clothing/shoes, coats, blankets, towels, and luggage.

With the unusual amounts of wintry weather already coming in, I hope after reading this you will research a donation site near you that aids the folks in your community. I also hope we will mark our 2015 calendars to clear out unwanted household items quarterly instead of just during the holiday season.  That is a personal goal of mine.

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In addition, I like to I keep a few pairs of warm, new gloves in my car to give to those I might see on the corner holding a scribbled cardboard sign. Our children still talk about giving gloves out to folks on the street on frigid days.

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MUST Ministries’ annual Gobble Jog, Thanksgiving 2009

On Thanksgiving morning, MUST will sponsor  The 12th annual Gobble Jog. If you have never participated, you will want to consider making this an annual event with your kids and your out-of-town family.

If we each do one thing to help these folks who are down and out, think what a difference we could make.  This reminds me of a story that I love…

The Starfish Story: one step towards changing the world

By, Loren Eiseley
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

*adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley, American anthropologist, educator, philosopher, and natural science writer (1907 – 1977)

We might not be able to change the entire world,

but we can certainly make a difference in our immediate community.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” The Gospel According to Matthew 25:35-36; 40

The Sandwich: A Courageous Conversation

sandwichWhen is the last time you were called to give difficult news to someone or have “that discussion” that you really don’t want to have?

I am very little inclined on any occasion to say anything unless I hope to produce some good by it. 

― Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the U.S.A. (1809-1865) 

Our pastor, Dr. Dwight “Ike” Reighard calls it a courageous conversation.

The next time you need to do this, try using the sandwich method. First, make a mental list of positive things you can share with the person you need to speak with and start with one of these. Next, consider how you will say, constructively, what needs to be stated. Finally, going back to your list of positives, end your conversation with one of these.

Positive***Negative***Positive and voila, you have had the courageous conversation that surely needed to be had and all is well with this vital relationship.

I hope you will try this the next time you feel it is appropriate to say something that is on your mind.

Gifts Come From Hospitality

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[pullquote]“Your guests will not recall details about how clean or unclean, big or small your home is, or even what you wear. Those in your home will always remember how you made them feel.” Mama, Polly Shivers Walker (1927-2006)[/pullquote]

Mama taught me by example how to serve others through hospitality.

When she wasn’t serving veggie soup, cornbread and sweet tea to young and old alike, she was collecting homemade cakes on Sundays at our nearby church. My brothers, sisters and I were solicited to head to the nursery after worship to bring the donations to our car. These cakes would then be served, with a cup of refreshing lime sherbet punch to the Veterans at the V.A. Hospital on Clairmont Road in Atlanta, Georgia, and we were right beside her as we all served together.

With Mama’s help, I have learned that a number of gifts come from hospitality and I will share a few of those here.

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FUN and FELLOWSHIP

When folks gather in your home, you are almost always guaranteed FUN and FELLOWSHIP, especially when the group is connected to your own kids, as pictured here.

I recently had the chance to co-host a baby shower for mommy-to-be, Brittany P. This family has been in our lives for decades, so that made this September Saturday even more special for me. Brittany and her Mama, Susan are pictured here as the baby girl gifts were opened.

A gift that comes from co-hosting a party is TEAMWORK. It always feels good to be a part of a strong team. The ladies, Mary Lynn, Renee, and Rhonda who helped throw this party in my home were amazing!

Another gift you get to enjoy is yummy food, especially when the buffet is provided by group effort!

Though there are many gifts that stem from hosting friends and family in our home, I will end with these last two for today.

Opening your home and your heart might give you the chance to MAKE NEW FRIENDS and GAIN WISDOM.

New friends can be made, as well as rekindling relationships with those you have not had the chance to connect with recently. During this shower for Brittany, I met many new friends, including Brit’s cousin’s Grandma, Virginia H., and we became instant friends. You see, Virginia reminded me of my own mother, mainly because of the joy she exuded as well as her contagious smile. As we chatted, I soon learned that Virginia had recently entered into a new season of life, as her husband had died in November 2013, just two days after my father passed away. As we all know, death of a loved one changes everything and Virginia’s circumstances were no exception.

We had the chance to encourage one another while visiting at the baby shower. I made certain to get a few hugs from Virginia, as well, and she hugged just like my Mama.

As she was leaving, Virginia shared a book title with my friend, Debra O. and me, stating that the book had changed her life. As I added her number to my phone, I told her I would call her and we could discuss the book once I had a chance to read it.  And that is exactly what I did!

When we talked on the phone, we had an engaging conversation about Andy Andrews’ book, as well as the many seasons of a woman’s life.

GAIN KNOWLEDGE when you are with others
GAIN WISDOM when you are with others

EVERY beating heart has a story and I am so glad I didn’t miss out on hearing about Virginia’s journey as I opened our home for this baby shower.

What are some of the gifts you’ve received because you made the choice to be hospitable?

A SOJOURNER Life Is A journey

“You only live once-but if you work it right, once is enough.” Joe F. Lewis

You and I, we are sojourners on this earth. The Webster’s dictionary defines a sojourner as follows:

“…one who is having a brief, temporary stay; a brief residence”

WE are sojourners on this earth because this earth is not our home.

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

Last night, as I worked for several hours organizing my thoughts, my story, in anticipation of sharing with the recovering ladies at the Women’s Extension Center, it quickly became apparent to me how far God has brought me in my life.
HOW ENCOURAGING!!! My main prayer has become two words: “Thank You.”
As a 50 something woman, (or any age woman!) I believe it is positively cathartic, very freeing, to think through, and even possibly write down your story, your personal testimony.
As I have expressed before, I have kept a journal for more than 20 years.
This simple tool has so often aided me in working through issues that have burdened my heart in my day-to-day life.
If you are not sure how to get started, try setting a timer for 10-20 minutes and just WRITE, WRITE, WRITE until the timer chimes…or TYPE, TYPE, TYPE…whichever is most comfortable for you.
In sharing with these women, I came up with the following verses to guide me:

Matthew 6:26-27
Lamentations 3:22-23
Galatians 5:1

“If you won’t be better tomorrow than you were today, then what do you need tomorrow for?” Rabbi Hahman of Bratslay

Today, I encourage you to consider yourself as a sojourner as you contemplate your life journey. How far have you come?

TODAY IS A GIFT AND THAT IS WHY WE CALL IT “THE PRESENT”!

Someone once said that today is the first day of the rest of your life. I think that is a grand way to begin this blog because at the age of 50 +, it is important to remember that each day matters and go forward with that thought. My 50th birthday was celebrated 323 days ago and I am happy to say that I am now a different person than I was on my birthday, August 1, 2008. I have finally lost the 20 + pounds that I have been trying to lose for about 17 years, since my son’s birth back in 1992! NOW, do not misunderstand by thinking that the weight loss has made me a different person. It is my “thinking” that has made me different. It is the fact that I have chosen to put myself up as a priority in my life, making time for workouts and planning good, healthy things to eat.
NO, this is not about that! This is not about exercise or food.
It is about women and how we are incredible care takers, but we somehow forget to care for ourselves.
THAT is what this is about.
I hope that in posting this thought that more women, younger and older than 50 will begin to care enough about themselves that they will put themselves on their “to do”list!